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New ideas for San Diego affordable housing focus on students, SRO hotels, underused commercial sites

Construction crews work on an 82-unit affordable-housing project in San Diego in 2020.
(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria last week unveiled a series of proposed reforms that aim to produce more affordable housing, including incentives for student housing, single-room-occupancy hotels and projects on underused commercial sites.

Gloria said his staff will gather feedback on the proposals this fall and then present detailed plans for new regulations to the city’s Planning Commission and City Council next spring.

The new proposals build on a series of reforms the council approved in February, which included allowing housing projects to be built in conjunction with new libraries and fire stations on public land.

Other incentives approved in February include making it easier for businesses to build onsite housing for their workers, incentives for developers who build larger “family” units with three or more bedrooms and incentives to build units geared for people with disabilities.

“I’m confident that once this new batch of creative ideas is implemented and added to what we’ve already done, it will help us address San Diego’s long-standing housing affordability crisis and prevent more homelessness,” Gloria said in a statement.

The new proposed reforms include incentives for dormitory-style homes near universities and construction of single-room-occupancy hotels, which many consider the lowest rung on the housing ladder above homelessness.

The reforms also include incentives for developers to build subsidized housing on vacant or underused retail, office and shopping center sites.

Other proposals will address anti-displacement policies for people living in subsidized housing and the city’s implementation of Senate Bill 10 — state legislation that encourages more housing near transit.

Gloria also wants to refine the city’s “Complete Communities” housing reforms, which were adopted in 2020, and create incentives to phase out industrial businesses located near housing.

“The city of San Diego must put all ideas on the table to overcome obstacles to building housing for all,” Councilman Joe LaCava said.

LaCava, vice chairman of the council’s Land Use and Housing Committee, said he is looking forward to public feedback helping to shape the new reforms.

“Ahead of us is a months-long public process, from workshops to City Council, to ensure that residents have a voice in shaping the dialogue,” he said.

— Point Loma-OB Monthly staff contributed to this report.


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